Television continues to represent mostly men on screen and behind the scenes, an updated study finds. Now in its 21st year, the Boxed In study, sponsored by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University and headed up by executive director Dr. Martha M. Lauzen, provides the most comprehensive historical record of women’s representation and employment in television available.
Overall, the numbers are down this year. Females comprised 40% of all speaking characters on dramas, comedies, and reality programs appearing on the broadcast networks, premium and basic cable channels, and on streaming services. This represents a decline of 2 percentage points from 42% in 2016-17. 68% of programs featured casts with more male than female characters in 2017-18. 11% had ensembles with equal numbers of female and male characters, and 21% featured casts with more female than male characters.
Across all platforms, the percentage of Latina characters in speaking roles reached a historical high in 2017-18, accounting for 7% of all female characters (up from 5% in 2016-17), but they remain the most underrepresented ethnic group when compared to their representation in the U.S. population. Black characters remained steady at 19% of all female characters, and the percentage of Asian females remained unchanged at 6%.
Behind the scenes, women accounted for 27% of all creators, directors, writers, executive producers, producers, editors, and directors of photography, a decline of 1 percentage point from 2016-17. Overall, programs employed behind-the-scenes women in relatively small numbers. For example, 69% of programs employed 5 or fewer women in the roles considered. In contrast, only 13% of programs employed 5 or fewer men.